I am glad you asked! During the Mexico scout trip in December 2012 five of our group (John (one of the ride leaders), Brian, Greg, Brandon and me) decided to take the path less travelled from Durango to Parral which entailed a 50+ mile leg on dirt roads through the mountains, while the main group stayed on the pavement. We should have known this was not going to be a good day when John, the best rider in the bunch for sure, busted his ass as soon as we got into dirt, but Noooo, we keep right on going, and it kept getting rougher and steeper. I am pretty sure that if I had not crashed we would have turned around pretty soon, anyway. I was riding a Motoquest 1200GS up the gravel road, 15 miles off the pavement (high into the drug lords’ domain) when the front tire washed out and the rear end went to the left. When I applied power to correct the slide the bike hooked up and went straight into the rock wall (see the pic), head on, at about 25 mph, and it stopped very quickly. It was not a glancing blow! It broke the triple clamp, punctured the oil cooler, bent the forks and the front wheel, and destroyed the instrument cluster and the windshield (see the other pic). We quickly realized that this was not going to go be easily fixed. As Brandon said when we tried to pick up the bike, “Oh S—, we are F—–“! We sent Brian, who spoke some Spanish, back to the pavement to try to find some help (Thanks, Brian). We were not sure when Brian would be back with help, if at all, and we were not going to spend the night on the side of that mountain. We unloaded my gear, tied it onto Brandon’s GSA, and pushed my wrecked bike off to the side of the road. If it had belonged to me I would have set it on fire and left it as a souvenir for sure, but I figured Phil might want it back. I climbed on the back of Greg’s F800GS and we started down the mountain. As we rode down the rocky mountain road Greg casually mentioned that he never really rode two up very often, especially in the dirt, and it was a lot harder than he expected. Great, now I was going to be in two bike wrecks in one day! Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that while were doing all this John had a flat front tire on his F800 and he had to fix that, too.
Bob hits a wall…
Actually Greg did a great job riding double down the mountain, and we had cleared most of the rough stuff when we met Brian coming back up. He had found four Mexican guys (Manny and three friends as we would later learn) in a pickup who were willing to drive up the mountain, load the bike, and drive us back to the pavement, with no idea of what we would do next. Greg and Brandon then took off, in the dark by then, and caught up with the main group about 10pm that night in Parral. I jumped in the back of the truck, still wearing my helmet, and we started back up the mountain to get the GS. It was rough going in the two-wheel drive truck. Manny tried to call it quits several times but reluctantly agreed to continue as I reminded him that I was not going to pay him unless we got the GS off the mountain. We loaded the 1200GS in the truck, not an easy task on the side of a mountain, with no ramp, in the dark, with the forks broken. We slowly picked our way down the mountain and drove back to the highway. It did make it easier knowing we probably couldn’t do much more damage to the bike than I had already done. As it turned out, Manny worked in the local mines during the week, and drove back to Parral, where his family lived, on the his days off, so we negotiated with Manny to spend the night on the floor at his house and to drive the bike, and me, six hours to Parral the next morning, with no idea of what we would do next.
That night Manny told us he had to go to a party and did not want the bike in the truck so we unloaded it in his yard. He asked us to go to the party and John and I declined, having had enough adventure for one day. Brian said he would go but all he had to wear was his riding gear. Manny said no problem and off they went leaving John and I to drink beer with Manny’s friend, Sam, a self-proclaimed alcoholic, who had recently been deported from the US, and a really scary dude. We went to sleep on the floor in our riding gear, only taking off our helmet and gloves. I tried not to touch any more parts of the small room than I had to. Brian showed up in the middle of the night and told us Manny had taken him to a wedding followed by a big party and a dance. I would bet that Brian was the only guy at the wedding wearing Klim off road riding gear and motocross boots. When Brian came back, three more of Manny’s friends came with him, and they all climbed into bed with Sam while the three of us slept on the floor beside the bed. I did not really notice that Manny was not with them at the time as the fact got lost somewhere in the middle of all of them trying to get into bed with Sam. Did I forget to mention that Manny’s house was actually a one-room shack, 15X15 bare concrete floor, with no plumbing or running water, just a table, a microwave, a few chairs, a bed, a 5 gallon jug of water, one light bulb, and three cases of beer that they bought with the money I gave them to haul the GS off the mountain. The bathroom was somewhere out back, actually anywhere out back seemed to work just fine.
The next morning at 0630 we found the truck parked in the driveway with Manny passed out in the front seat, obviously drunk, REALLY drunk, OK, comatose. One of Manny’s friends, Pedro (I am not kidding), decided to go with us, I think to protect Manny from me, or because he was not sure I could actually drive a pickup truck. We loaded the GS into the truck, I pushed Manny over onto the passenger side, Pedro jumped in the middle, rolled the window down, turned the radio wide open to his favorite Mariachi station, and we started driving to Parral, Brian and John bringing up the rear, with no idea of what we would do next.
“Blackie” on the way back to the Estados Unidos
When I cranked up the truck I had noticed all the warning lights lit up, part of the system check I assumed. Then I noticed that none of them went out. Oil light, check engine, tire pressure, ABS, seat belt, air bag, alternator, doors ajar, everything lit up like a Christmas tree. I looked over at Pedro and he said, “No Problem”, which I found out later was pretty much the extent of his English, so we started driving. The lights stayed on all the way to Parral and the truck ran just fine? No problem.
Much of the road to Parral was a twisty mountain road, no shoulder, sheer dropoffs, sections of it pitted with deep potholes. I realized that Brandon and Greg had ridden that road in the dark, in 35 mph winds, the night before. There is a whole ‘nother story about that ride I am told.
When we got to Parral we found Phil waiting for us at the hotel as the group had left that morning to continue their ride toward Copper Canyon. We negotiated a deal with Manny’s cousin (I don’t remember his name but I sure bet Phil does since he spent the next two days in the truck with him) while having lunch with Manny’s family and other relatives, to load the wrecked bike into his truck, since Manny did not have license plates on his, and drive the bike and Phil to somewhere north of Nuevo Casa Grande (a two day drive) where they would meet up with a Motoquest van bringing another bike into Mexico from Long Beach. Then we had to unload the broken GS from Manny’s truck and load it into his cousin’s truck. The presence of three BMW’s at Manny’s family’s house, plus a wrecked one in the back of the truck, brought everybody in that part of town out to watch the spectacle. I then took Phil’s bike, which turned out to be the same 1200GS (good ole number 2) I had ridden to Prudhoe in June, and Phil left for the trip north in the pickup. We waved goodbye to Phil as he disappeared in a pickup driven by a Mexican stranger with a wrecked BMW in the back (I bet there’s a whole ‘nother story there too) and we went back to the hotel with plans to get up early and try to catch the group the next day, somehow.
That night, as walked around Parral, we heard someone yelling at us from a Honda Accord in the street, it was Manny and his friend. They had been looking for us and wanted to take us out on the town, so they could spend the rest of the money I had given them to get the GS off the mountain. So the three of us climbed in the back seat of the Honda and we drove straight to the drive through beer store, windows down, sun roof open, Mariachi music wide open (it’s a Mexican thing, I think). After buying lots of beer we proceeded to drive around town, drinking beer, listening to Mariachi music, and yelling out the window at any women we saw. Manny stopped at one of his hangouts. Kind of an old time American drive inn restaurant where everybody parks around a circle drive, stands behind the car, tells lies, drinks beer, yells at women, and stacks all the empty cans on top of their car. My kind of place for sure. We met a lot of recent US deportees, and heard some of their stories that may have changed my mind about US immigration policy completely. There are some really good, hard working people being unfairly separated from their families and deported from this country, and we never hear about them!
Then we went to the pool hall and drank some more beer, shot some pool, and yelled at women we saw. By the time we got back to hotel it was already too late to get up early. It was obvious that it was going be a long day making up two days on the group, and it was.
We got up the next morning and rode into the Copper Canyon area although we were in such a push to catch the group that we only rode about half way into the Canyon. We did catch the group at the hotel about 9 pm that night. After spending the next night in Nuevo Casa Grande, we met up with Phil, waiting for us on the side of the road to the North. He had met the Motoquest van somewhere and swapped the wrecked bike for the GS brought down from the US, although I understand there were problems with the paper work on the replacement bike that required the van to go all the way back to the border to get resolved, but that is also a whole ‘nother story I am told.
I don’t know how much Motoquest pays their tour guides but I assure you that John earned his money, and my respect and appreciation, on this trip. He played guide, mechanic, EMT, translator, motivational speaker, security guard, morals counselor, Mexican beer consultant, International negotiations specialists, priest, and over all authority figure, and he kept an all around cool head the whole time (except when he lost the keys to his bike and I thought we were going to have to sedate him, but that’s a whole ‘nother story).
Believe it or not, I have actually left a lot of the details of the rest of this trip untold, partially out of the need for brevity, and partially from a sense of discretion, but there is a lot more to this story that involves tequila, karaoke, Mariachi bands, pickup trucks, me getting lost, Phil finding me, a lost cell phone, a lost passport, more beer, Manny’s wife, more tequila, the police, automatic weapons, Facebook friends, fire wood, a small mutiny caused by riding in the sand, an expresso machine, another beer store, an anniversary party, a blown rear shock, snow in the pass, ice in the other pass, the Honey Badger, a drug lords wife, and the real definition of a Mexican certificate of vehicle insurance, but that is a whole ‘nother story.
Bottom line, it cost me over $3000 just to get the bike off the mountain and back to Long Beach, but at least some of that money was spent on beer that I helped drink. For those who are BMW riders you certainly have a good idea of the cost to fix the damage I described on the bike.
So the next time someone asks, “What is the difference between a tour and scouting trip”? This was a scouting trip! It was worth every cent!
Group enjoys the last couple of days through Arizona.